By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
Coach Mike Carey’s West Virginia University women’s basketball team got off to a solid start as it tried to find an identity, winning its first three games this season, but a trip to Florida for a tournament in which it lost to both LSU and Iowa showed there is much to do before they discover a winning formula.
In those two games, almost everything that can go wrong did so.
The Mountaineers shot poorly.
They defended as badly.
They fouled … and fouled … and fouled.
And now they hit the road for two more games away from home, playing a 5-0 Virginia team at 2 p.m. today in Charlottesville, then head into Charleston to play in-state rival Marshall at 7:30 Tuesday night.
“We’ve just got to get better,” said Carey, noting that in both games the Mountaineers had leads but couldn’t hold them. “Look at the Iowa game. They made 13 buckets but shot 50 free throws and made 80 percent of them. We shot 20 something percent from the floor.”
Think about that, 50 free throws in a 40-minute game, and then trying to overcome it when you can’t get the ball to go into the basket.
“You can’t get in a flow,” said Carey, but he wasn’t going to blame the officials for what went on, meaning you know WVU must have really played bad defense.
“You know what, when the officials are calling it close, we need to keep our hands off them,” Carey said. “You’re not going to win that battle. So, we learned a lesson, hopefully. If they are calling it close, you play one way. If they are not calling it close, you play another way.”
One problem, with Asya Bussie out for the season with a knee injury, is WVU needs 6-5 YaYa Dunning to stay in the game inside, and she couldn’t do that in the Iowa game.
“YaYa didn’t get to play hardly any the Iowa game. You take our only center out and they have a 6-5 center … we’re short at the 5 position,” said Carey.
Dunning understands what transpired and plans to adjust her play according to the way the officials are calling the game.
“That’s just something we have to adjust to in game situations. We’re a very physical team. We beat up on each other in practice. When the game is going to be called close, we have to not be as physical, get off the ball,” she said.
That is easily said, not easily done, for a coach creates a style of play that he wants followed and drills it into players until it becomes part of their nature.
Yet Dunning is going to have to adjust.
“Even if we have a breakdown on defense, sometimes YaYa is going to have to let her go and live to play another day,” Carey said. “She can’t get frustrated. A couple of times she got fouls inside she got frustrated and ended up pushing a girl, and that’s a foul.”
“It’s difficult, especially since we’re taught physical for 40 (minutes), and we’re such a physical and defensive team. That’s just an adjustment we have to make in the game and find other ways to get the job done,” Dunning explained.
“You have to adjust. Sometimes they let us go out there and not kill each other but bang into each other. Also, you have to be smarter. Sometimes if you are not in position for a rebound, not go for it so you don’t foul. If we’re caught behind the ball, we should not to go for the steal which could lead to another foul.”
The shooting aspect of it is something Carey believes will come. He just isn’t sure how to see that they don’t shoot 20 percent.
“Oh, Lord. If I knew, I’d be making a lot more money than what I am now,” he joked.
But he knew it was a serious inquiry.
“It’s not like players are trying to miss. It’s not like they were bad shots. Some were wide-open shots. Some went down the rim and came back out. It is what it is. You have to deal with that,” he said. “As coaches, we have to do a better job of putting them in the right positions, but you just can’t shoot 20-some percent and win.”
One thing is certain; until they show they can shoot better, they will see a lot of zones.
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.